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New Haven kicks off Juneteenth with celebrations and first restaurant week

A New Haven town worker raises the Juneteenth flag during the Juneteenth Flag Raising and Ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut on June 3rd, 2024 hosted by the official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven (JCGNH). The official Juneteenth flag was created by Connecticut resident, Ben Haith.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
A New Haven town worker raises the Juneteenth flag during the Juneteenth Flag Raising and Ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut, on June 3, 2024, hosted by the official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven (JCGNH). The official Juneteenth flag was created by Connecticut resident, Ben Haith.

A jazz trumpeter played Louis Armstrong’s "What a Wonderful World" as the Juneteenth flag, a flag associated with liberation, flew over the New Haven Green Monday, next to one embodying liberty, the flag of the United States.

It’s the 11th time the flag has been flown on the green, as part of the city’s commemoration of Juneteenth, when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, belatedly learned they were free and could now live the rest of their lives as citizens, not property.

But it's now the first time celebrations in New Haven include a restaurant week, where Black-owned businesses can show off their cuisine as a tie-in with the holiday.

The president and co-founder of the official Juneteenth coalition of Greater New Haven, Hanan Hameen Diagne, said the holiday is about finding community.

Co-founder of the official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven, Dr. Hanan Hameen with Connecticut resident Ben Haith, the creator of the official Juneteenth flag at the podium during the Juneteenth Flag Raising and Ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut on June 3rd, 2024.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Co-founder of the official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven, Dr. Hanan Hameen, with Connecticut resident Ben Haith, the creator of the official Juneteenth flag, at the podium during the Juneteenth Flag Raising and Ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut on June 3, 2024.

“We're all one, which is our theme for this year, unity, Umoja, which is Kiswahili for unity,” Hameen Diagne said.

Other speakers included Mayor Justin Elicker, and the city’s poet laureate, Sharmont "Influence" Little, and others, who spoke about the history of the day.

Juneteenth was widely known and celebrated among African Americans in Texas, who carried those traditions with them as they migrated north throughout the northeast in the early 20th century. But many Americans are still dimly aware of the holiday if they are familiar with it at all.

New Haven, despite its own legacies of racism towards African Americans, would end up celebrating it long before the state or the federal government. Gov. Ned Lamont made Juneteenth a state holiday in 2022 a year after President Joe Biden declared it a federal holiday in 2021.

Little said when reading his poem that the holiday holds a lot of meaning and tied it to the continued fight for racial equality. He then ended the poem looking inward.

“We are people of a long lineage that cannot be stopped if we depend and look inside, and love and cherish each other,” Little said. “Happy Juneteenth.”

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